The new Ford Tourneo Courier is one of the best van-cum-cars we have driven. Fiesta underpinnings means it drives better than most while still offering a huge amount of space. It falls down on the price however, coming in very close to established market leaders.
In the Metal:
By our reckoning the Ford now offers seven different MPVs depending on your tastes and budget. By comparison Ford offers two (or will do when the EcoSport arrives) SUVs, two saloons and three hatchbacks. Three of those MPVs are van-derived Tourneos, all of which have arrived within the past two years and the baby Tourneo Courier tested here is the final piece of the jigsaw. Based on the Fiesta/B-Max chassis it is arguably the best looking of the Tourneo family with the new corporate face suiting the Courier better than it does its Connect or Custom cousins. That said, there really is no denying it is a van underneath - the high roof, sliding doors and an oversized tailgate are dead giveaways. This is not an issue on the continent where vehicles such as this are abundant, but in Ireland we tend to look down on such cars.
Which in the case of the Courier is a real shame, as it has the nicest interior of any of the van-derived cars we have seen. With a dashboard lifted straight from the Ford Fiesta and a low slung seating position it certainly feels more like a car to sit in. It is spacious too with decent rear legroom and a 708-litre boot that is ideally shaped and offers a low and flat floor. Space can be increased to a more van like 1,656-litre by folding the 60/40 split rear seats flat. There are also a number of cubbyholes and storage spaces such as the overhead shelf and under-seat drawers to stow things like that bag of sweets we bribe the kids with.
When it arrives in Ireland early next year the Courier will be available with a choice of two engines: the 100hp version of the 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol unit and the 95hp 1.6-litre TDCi diesel that is used throughout the range. We are big fans of the EcoBoost engine - it suits the nature of the Fiesta and even works well in the larger Focus. In the Courier, though it seems out of its depth. This may be down to the weight of what is essentially a van with seats, or the fact that less sound deadening than usual means you can hear the engine having to work hard, but you really do have to thrash it to make any sort of progress. Foot hard to the floor you will be a long time getting up to motorway speeds. The 1.6-litre diesel is not much better in that respect but its low end torque does give it an overwhelming advantage around town and when making overtaking manoeuvres. The downside is that its noise reverberates around the cabin reminding you of the Courier's van DNA at all times.
Where the new MPV is un-van-like is in how it drives. That high roof would lead you to believe it is top heavy and likely to lollop and roll around corners, but the centre of mass is actually quite low meaning it is almost car- (or at least car-based MPV) -like to drive. This can be attributed to the fact that, under the commercial body is a reworked Fiesta platform. Understandably there were some changes made to the chassis between Fiesta and Courier so do not expect it to dart between corners like a startled terrier, but compared to some of its rivals it is in league of its own with decent feedback through the wheel, high levels of grip and suspension that does not bang and wallop at the first sign of a pothole.
What you get for your Money:
As it is a while until the Courier arrives, Ford Ireland has yet to fully nail down prices and specifications, though a starting figure of €19,900 was mooted. Two trim levels - basic Courier and high spec Titanium - seem likely with a host of options such as Ford SYNC, rear view camera, satellite navigation and the MyFord Dock also available (more on that later). Assuming the Courier follows the specification of its big brother, the Connect, that basic specification is going to be exactly that. Expect to see all the mandatory safety equipment, manually adjusted mirrors, four (steel) wheels and not a lot else. If you want any of the niceties one would normally associate with a car (electric mirrors, air conditioning, Bluetooth etc.) you will have to opt for the higher spec Titanium variant.
This puts the Tourneo Courier into a precarious position. Even the entry level version comes up against some established family favourites. The Ford Focus, Kia cee'd and SEAT Leon all start at less than €20,000 while even the more traditional B-Max is only €1,000 more. While none of these cars offer as much boot space or possibly even as much rear legroom as the Courier they are nicer to drive. That is without mentioning small estate cars. The likes of the SEAT Leon ST, Peugeot 308 SW, Kia cee'd SW are all available for similar money, offer more standard equipment and have comparable boots. The headroom in those may not be the same, but some things are worth sacrificing.
While some buyers might be tempted to plumb for the SD-card based satellite navigation it may instead be worth their while looking at the MyFord Dock. Essentially an integrated cradle that can hold your phone while it charges, it allows you to tap into the apps on your smartphone giving you access to much more up to date maps than Ford can provide - and on a bigger screen too. The Ford screen is tiny, and unless you are using a five-year old smartphone the likelihood is your phone will have a five-inch screen. Opt for the SYNC with AppLink option and you can control your phone via voice commands or, you know, use SIRI or Google Voice instead.
Ford sees the Tourneo Courier as the car for families who rate space and practicality over all other things. But if there is one class of car that Irish buyers dislike more than estates it is converted vans - they are for taxi drivers. The family buyer is much more likely to be attracted by a traditional MPV (B-Max) or small crossover (EcoSport) than they are the Courier. If it was €2,000 cheaper it could make a case for itself, but as it stands it is too close in price to established family favourites.